By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech soccer team is set to embark on its longest road trip of the year over the weekend, a four-match swing that will begin with a pair of tilts down in Alabama. On Friday, Tech will square off at UAB for a 7 p.m. CT first kick, before the Golden Eagles hook up with the University of Alabama for a Sunday evening clash with the Crimson Tide, beginning at 5 p.m.
Tech (3-1-0) enters the weekend rolling, behind three-straight victories, all by 1-0 margins. The club's three-consecutive shutouts mark just the third time in program history that the Golden Eagles have blanked an opponent in three-straight matches, and first occurrence since 2000 when Tech accomplished the feat in four-straight tilts.
The Golden Eagles have yet to yield a goal in regulation and the squad's one goal allowed all season is the lowest in the OVC, three less than the next closest school. Junior goalkeeper Kari Naerdemann leads the conference in goals against average (0.25), save percentage (.944) and shutouts (3). Overall, the Herne, Germany native has registered 21 career shutouts in just over two years in purple and gold, the most in program history.
Offensively, youth has played a significant role, accounting for all three Golden Eagle goals. Sophomores Nora Vicsek and Dani Shartouny, along with freshman Kendall Powell, have all found the back of the net this season. Powell's goal, which came in the last match against Georgia State on Sunday, made it two-consecutive contests with at least a point for the Cookeville native after assisting on Shartouny's game-winning score in Tech's home opener against Western Carolina on Aug. 27.
UAB hosts Tech fresh off of three-straight double overtime matches, checking each the win, loss and tie column during the trio of tilts. The Blazers (4-1-1) have split the pipes 14 times in six matches, paced by senior Rachel Green, freshman Betsy Ornelas and sophomore Megan Hudgens, who have three goals apiece.
Junior goalkeeper Kelsey Daugherty has played each and every minute this season, making 32 saves while allowing six goals. The Kennesaw, Ga. native has a 0.91 goals against average and a .842 save percentage.
The two schools have met only once, a UAB victory back in 1996.
A fair share of intrigue surrounds TTU's match with the University of Alabama Sunday evening, an anticipated rematch after the Golden Eagles bested the Tide, 2-1, in 2015 for Tech's first ever win against an SEC school. The Golden Eagles entered the matchup with a 0-11 mark all-time against the Southeastern Conference, and had started the 2015 campaign 0-3, but managed to pull off the upset that helped ignite this current run of success. Following the victory over UA, Tech has posted a 22-12-8 record, the program's best 42-match mark since the early 2000's.
Before hosting the Golden Eagles, the Crimson Tide (5-1-0) will travel to Kennesaw State Thursday evening for a showdown with the Owls. Alabama is riding a three-match winning streak, highlighted by a 1-0 nod over No. 6 Florida State on Aug. 27.
Six different players have two goals on the year, while junior Emma Welch boasts a squad-leading three assists and seven points. Senior Kat Stratton has played each and every minute between the pipes, collecting 22 saves and surrendering five goals for a .815 save percentage.
Alabama leads the all-time series, 2-1.
Photo by Tony Marable